Yet another pitiful show was presented by ministers who appear not to have comprehended the situation created by the wildfires, or the causes of this inconceivable catastrophe.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos played the role of the maestro of the orchestra. Alternate Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas was the leading man. Nikos Pappas was the locum tenens. Police brass and Fire Service officials were the extras in the performance that was staged last night in an effort to justify the unjustifiable. Notably, no representatives of local government were there, including Attica Prefect Rena Dourou.
With a provocative posture but without apologising or announcing any resignations, Toskas and Tzanakopoulos essentially informed us that everything was done perfectly by state services, and that the coordination was the best possible. They said that the blame for everything is attributable to the unprecedentedly strong winds, invisible arsonists, and illegally constructed homes.
Everyone and everything followed the line of the PM’s office and communications advisors – to attribute responsibility to everyone, and to a longstanding situation that unfortunately brought on the tragedy.
Theory of collective responsibility
The government is attempting to shirk the weight of the 83 or more dead and is playing the game of “collective responsibility”. This was seen with Defence Minister Panos Kammenos’ line in the morning. He placed the blame on the residents because they built without permits, on the absence of town planning, on the strong winds, and on the lack of time to implement planning for such situations.
The ministers essentially said that nothing was done wrong on Monday. The government, which is responsible for general coordination, is not to blame. The Attica prefecture is not to blame. The police and Fire Service are not to blame. Everything else is to blame, but no individual or state service.
Regarding efforts to evacuate the area, they told us that they did not have the time to do it, because the buses would not arrive in time, and people could not be alerted in the hour-and-a half during which the tragedy took place.
They did not answer the most important question. Was there an evacuation plan? Is there now an evacuation plan if a similar incident happens again?
Naturally, they said nothing about whether the wildfire – which started on the mountain at 16:50pm and burnt everything within two hours – was underestimated.
They also said that the small boats to pick up people could not have arrived in time, so what evacuation are we talking about?
Was there no one to tell them that evacuation means not just leaving the housing settlement, but also to be safely removed from their homes first and to be taken down to the beaches?
If that had been done, so many people would not have been burnt alive in their cars and homes and in a field, seeking an escape route to the sea.
An even more tragic element in the news conference was that they focused their attentions on arsonists, presenting information indicating that there was arson, as if this makes any difference when so many people have lost their lives. It was the subsequent stage that ended in tragedy.
They are proud to boot
It is characteristic that the heads of the Fire Service and of Greek Police stated that they were proud of their work. What would they have said, one wonders, if there were no dead? There was not a shred of self-criticism. No one is to blame. Nothing was done wrong. That was the message.
Their appearance was surprising and depressing, as was the statement by Public Order Alternate Minister Nikos Toskas that he submitted his resignation but that it was not accepted. That provokes public opinion, as does their overall presentation and behaviour, after the death of 84 people and many more missing persons.
It is enraging that Tzanakopoulοs exhibited a particularly provocative and contentious behaviour towards journalists, especially those who posed tough questions, which were uncomfortable for the government.
Instead of all the officials keeping a humble appearance, and not saying that they are proud and would again do the same in similar incidents, they exhibited an arrogant behaviour, disrespecting the dead and their relatives.
In our opinion, statements such as Toska’s will be remembered and judged by history.
“I am trying, for reasons of conscience, to find errors, but operationally I cannot find major errors,” he said.
“For reasons of conscience, I tendered my resignation to the prime minister, but he told me, ‘In the hour of struggle, we continue’,” Toskas said. “He did not accept my resignation. There are serious data that indicate a criminal act in starting the fires, but I do not know the objective,” he added.
Hence, the top brass of Greek Police and the fire service stated that they are proud. “I would not have done anything differently, because I could not have done anything differently,” they said.
They will be judged by those afflicted and responsibilities will be attributed whenever and however that should be done. This is especially true for Mr. Tzanakopoulos, who wrapped up the performance by stating that he, as everyone else in the government, is devastated, but satisfied by the effort of all involved.
Yet, it is the government that signed the city plan at Kokkino Limanaki.
Minister Yorgos Stathakis signed the approval of the plan. Despite that, ministers Panos Kammenos, Christos Spirtzis, and Nikos Toskas provocatively blamed the citizens for the illegal buildings in Mati.